© 2024 Public Radio East
Public Radio For Eastern North Carolina 89.3 WTEB New Bern 88.5 WZNB New Bern 91.5 WBJD Atlantic Beach 90.3 WKNS Kinston 88.5 WHYC Swan Quarter 89.9 W210CF Greenville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dueling Dinosaurs, years in the making, opens this weekend at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
It’s been years – many years – in the making, but a one-of-a-kind exhibit opens this weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Here's a sneak peek ahead of Saturday’s grand opening of Dueling Dinosaurs

It’s been years – many years – in the making, but a one-of-a-kind exhibit opens this weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.  

The Dueling Dinosaur fossils were found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana by ranchers in 2006, and the find included the fossilized skeletons of a tyrannosaur and a Triceratops horridus entangled with one another, and entombed in sandstone.

Dueling Dinosaurs exhibit opens this weekend at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

They’re called "dueling" dinosaurs because of the numerous injuries to both, although it is not known whether they were actually buried fighting one another. That’s one further mystery North Carolina paleontologists hope to learn more about.

The ranchers that found the fossils tried unsuccessfully to sell them to several museums for years, then tried to sell the specimen to a private buyer, also to no avail.

In 2016, Lindsay Zanno of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences started negotiations to purchase the fossil, with funds raised through the private nonprofit Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Those negotiations were slowed but a court ruling that fossils could legally be considered minerals in Montana, but, in an appeal, the Montana Supreme Court overturned that decision in 2020, paving the way for the new Dueling Dinosaurs exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, which opens to the public this weekend.

The museum’s DinoLab Manager Dr. Eric Lund says the fossils are among the most complete skeletons ever found.

"Like, we might not have every single tiny bone, but all the bones are in life position. These animals were buried as carcasses 67,000,000 years ago, which means they were buried with all their flesh and soft tissue. So, every bone is in life position and that's very, very rare in paleontology," Lund said.

Another thing that makes the exhibit unique is that it’s a working paleontology lab that will allow people to watch as the scientists make discoveries along the way.

"One of the ideas that we put forth is to do all this work in front of the public, to make it more accessible. So, we're not just people behind the glass. In fact, that's another unique thing about this whole project is our museum is really pushed that whole sci-com, the science communication, and being very open with the public and every lab that it's in that's in this building we're in right now is a public lab space. People get to come inside," he said.

"But we wanted to push that envelope just a little bit and actually bring people inside all the time. So, we got rid of that glass wall. So, now people get to experience some exhibitory and then come in the lab with me and my team and they get to see how we're working on these specimens, the tools we're using, and that's another very unique thing about what's going on here.”

And it’s not the first unique find Dr. Lund has been involved with; he was on a team that also made a one-of-a-kind discovery in 2013.

"Really long time ago I was out in southern Utah looking for fossils and I had spent all day and hadn't found much and about 6:00 PM, I decided I'm not going to head back to camp yet. I'm going to head up one more hill and I started finally finding bones," he explained. "Turned out on excavation of those bones, and preparation, that they belong to a brand new dinosaur. So, in 2013 we got to name a dinosaur called Nasutoceratops. It's a horned dinosaur in the same group as Triceratops, but predates Triceratops by about 10 million years.”

Nasutoceratops has several unique features, including an oversized nose compared to other members of the family, and exceptionally long, curving, forward-oriented horns over the eyes. The name translates as “big-nose horned face.”

The grand opening of the Dueling Dinosaurs exhibit is on Saturday, and tickets are not required only for that day. Regular hours begin on Sunday, and tickets are required. The lab is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A link to reserve free tickets for Dueling Dinosaurs is available HERE.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to eastern North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of kiddo cuddling, reading, and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.